THEGAYUK

We Are Gay UK

COMMENT | Manchester Pride & Me: A time for community

I recently attended one of the best pride events I have been to in a long time. For me, Manchester pride is a shining example of how a pride should be.

The reminders of our past, the celebration of our achievements and the hope for our future all wrapped up in 1 event. All you have to do is look around at how everyone interacts and how the businesses operate and you get such a sense of community in the air. I’ve been to many different prides over the last 10 years or so including some of those in Europe and I would gladly place Manchester pride up there amongst the best.

Yes I had a cider or 2, but then I’d have a cider or 2 regardless of it being pride. But for me it was a weekend of friends, old and new, learning about new things and pushing my boundaries to do and experience new things. To challenge some of my own prejudices and short comings and come out the other side with a sense of achievement.

On the Monday evening, for those that did not stay the full weekend, in the community park a candle lit vigil occurs on behalf of the Georges House Trust (GHT). GHT have been in Manchester offering HIV-related services & support for 30 years and this year decided to remember those 30 years and some of those that have used the service.

Each of the various different national and local well-known figures brought with them to the stage a memory, a memory of someone close to them that they are there to remember. Someone who cannot be with us but is with us in our hearts. Each talk, albeit short, was utterly moving and emotional. A local theatre company performed a selection of calls that had been received by the GHT to their telephone support line. The 3 performers read out the ‘call diary’ of the volunteers on call that detailed what the call was and what advice was given.

Some calls were sweet. Some calls were creepy. Some were routine and some revealed the sheer scale of horror and injustice that living with HIV was like in the 80s and 90s. You could not help but be moved to tears when you hear about a man losing his partner because he committed suicide after finding out he was HIV+, or a mother so scared for her HIV+ son that she turns to the GHT for help in utter desperation. In each call the GHT volunteers were there to help and they, and all other organisations throughout the world that offer a similar service, are truly a shining light in the darkness of someone’s desperation.

Many people ask me “what is the point of pride” especially when we enjoy such freedoms and exposure these days and all the say is a load of youths drinking. For me I answer with this; pride is not a march, it is a parade. It’s a celebration of all we have achieved but also a remembrance of all those we have lost. Those that have given their lives or suffered greatly fighting for what is right deserve to see the benefits of their work. To be remembered and celebrated and to allow people to be whomever they want to be and live in a world with no prejudice for phobia. Even if that is only during the pride festivities.

Pride also reminds us is that we have still a long way to go on some areas. In the recent Dean Street data incident, the fact that some people have taken that list of email addresses and are sending the recipients abusive messages shows that HIV ignorance and prejudice is still a problem in this country. Even some of the news agencies listed Dean Street as an “AIDS clinic” rather than the sexual health clinic that it is. So long as ignorance and intolerance of HIV & AIDS exists then work will go on. For that matter, so long as HIV still exists then the work will go on.

GHT handed out to everyone and encouraged them to share these 5 facts about HIV via social media. I encourage everyone to do the same. Even if you don’t engage in pride or know of anyone that has suffered with HIV you can do your bit and simply share some common facts to promote awareness.

1 – Testing regularly for HIV is the right thing to do

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2 – Medication is stopping HIV from being passed on

3 – HIV is a manageable condition when diagnosed early

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4 – People living with HIV are enjoying happy and fulfilling relationships

5 – Positive attitudes encourage discussion about HIV

by Scott Sammons | @i_scotty

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